Weaver's Week 2006-07-23

Weaver's Week Index

'Iain Weaver reviews the latest happenings in UK Game Show Land.'


ITV In Crisis, part 2

It's been the hottest July week in thirty years. Temperatures in some parts of the UK have soared to ten billion degrees, a level that causes strange and inexplicable things to happen. People start to think the "Macarena" is a really good record. ITV wonders why it flew dozens of people to exotic Fiji when they could have achieved the exact same effect by taking over Canvey Island. And this column suddenly turns into bad joke central. Before reading on, we recommend applying factor-25 pun block.

Celebrity Love Island 2

(Granada for ITV and ITV2, from 10pm-ish all week)

Somehow, and we could never quite work out why, every single contributor to UKGameshows.com conspired to miss the first series of Celebrity Love Island. In spite of the almost two column inches of press coverage, and the presence of our favourite comedy presenter Patrick Kielty, we all managed to find something more interesting to watch. However, in the spirit of philosophical enquiry, and not because we've gone completely mad in the heat, this column has viewed a few episodes.

Mr Kielty's co-host last year, someone called Kelly Brook, has not had her contract renewed, and a series of talented presenters declined the gig. Liza Tarbuck, she said no. Denise van Outen apologised, as she was going to be washing her hair every night for a month. Tara Palmer-Tomkinson also declined, as her contract specifies that her co-host must also have a double-barrelled surname, and Mr Kielty declined to change his name.

Over on the other side, Top of the Pops has been run into the ground by the hand of Andi Peters, and we've sent a chocolate bar round to his new cookery programme at ITV so he can celebrate his triumph in an appropriate style. Television is now suffering from a shortage. There's a shortage of prime-time popular music programmes, which falls outside this column's purview. There's also a shortage of places for an intelligent, witty, attractive, and capable presenter to demonstrate their many talents.

Put two and two together, and we get a problem that would tax the combined intellect of all the contestants on this show. Even though it's clear that she would prove to be far more talented than Mr Kielty, former TOTP host Fearne Cotton has been given the show. And, let's be brutally honest, the main reason we're watching the show is because we want to see how long it will take for Miss Cotton to upstage Mr Kielty.

Who had two seconds in the sweep-stake?

Oh, go on, we'll give this show the full review it so clearly doesn't deserve. The objective of the programme is simple: deliver completely fluffy, braindead, stupid fare so that the viewers are put into an advanced catatonic state. Incapable of operating their remote controls, the viewers will watch the advertisements surrounding the programme, and will subliminally absorb the messages contained therein. ITV will therefore be able to sustain its sky-high advertising rates, pay out lots of money to the shareholders, and avoid being taken over by a foreign predator, at least for the next five minutes.

Is there a point to the game within the programme? Well, the game itself is a descendent of Survivor (which rather flopped for ITV) and I'm A Celebrity (which rather succeeded), with a slight dose of Channel 4's Shipwrecked. There's some sort of mega phone-in, by which mechanism ITV gets lots and lots of phone revenue (see arguments passim), and an excuse to get a couple of the celebrities away from the others. During which time we expect them to discuss and resolve at least one of the following:

  • the Schleswig-Holstein Question
  • prove (or disprove) the Reimann zeta hypothesis
  • explain how Martin Luther's 95 Theses influenced the development of interactive television
  • make a shirt without seam or needlework
  • find the flaw in Einstein's Theory of Relativity
  • do something vaguely interesting.
We'll be using the hammer later, class

Apparently, there's also an occasional popularity contest, also conducted via mega phone-in, and the person who gets the fewest popularity points will be invited to leave the island and find something less undemanding to do. Someone who appeared to be last week's evictee was invited to discuss make-up tips with Jayne Middlemiss and to draw a diagram of who, exactly, had affection for whom. The display included a formula that might not be familiar to Herr Einstein. E-squared equals MC, apparently. Nor did it include a picture of Patrick Kielty, as there are only so many black lines that fit onto one sketchboard.

Actually, if that is their equation of energy, it's no wonder that Love Island's get-up-and-go has got-up-and-gone. For a given mass of input, the formula they're postulating will reduce the output by a large factor, equivalent to the speed of light to the power of 1.5, multiplied by the square root of the input mass. Assuming the mass of the entire project to be 20 tonnes, Einstein's equation says that 1.8x1021 joules of energy will be produced, enough to keep the entire population of the world in a steady jog until 2009. ITV's statement shows they're expecting slightly less to happen - a piffling 2,448,642 joules. At normal human activity rates, that's enough for slightly more than nine and a half hours of action all series.

It was possible that some or all of the contestants may be replaced by more famous substitutes. However, Eric Pode of Croydon could not make his way to the island, as then the other viewer would want to be flown out to Fiji. (If you're reading, producers, we'll settle for a slow boat to Iceland.) By a small miracle, Mr Croydon's place was taken by a gentleman with tattoos for a shirt, and whose speech sounded remarkably like the Greenwich Time Signal. This person, a Mr Stephen Eaux, was removed from the set after the crew found that he was interfering with their time-keeping. How else can we explain the fact that, during its oscillation between ITV and ITV2, the programme ran between two and ten minutes late?

The programme is, of course, relentless in its pursuit of the heterosexualist agenda, and in praising the cultural stereotypes of masculinity, femininity, and utter shallowness. Blasting ITV for its illiberal assumptions would be like taking a steamroller to shell a pea. We're on safer ground by blasting the use of a full-moon shot to establish night-time. As anyone who gazed into the clear night skies this week while not sleeping in the extreme heat will know, there's been no moon.

Perhaps the only redeeming feature about this programme is Fearne Cotton. At least she's aware that the programme is completely without merit. Not sufficiently aware to shout, "I'm better than this, get me back to Top Of The Pops Saturday with Sam and Mark," though we politely decline to argue with anyone who is spending her days kick-boxing. We also appreciated the random jottings of the ITV2 host, Matt Brown, anyone who can slip in references to "He-Man" and ATV-land is clearly someone to promote to better things. Jayne Middlemiss is stuck in cliché-land - "anyone talking about winning is interested in winning." Ah, but there are no winners on this show, only losers.

The burning question, is anyone watching it? The answer, no. Last Sunday's edition attracted barely half the audience of the BBC's venerable current affairs stodge Panorama, with the gripping and exciting spectacle of a 45-minute report about tax fraud in the European Single Market. Edge of the seat stuff, and no mistake. Meanwhile, ITV's shares closed the week at 96¼p, and at least one rat was seen climbing aboard the ship. Will Roland be in charge of the company by next week?


First round, episode 16

Last week's episode saw the first tie-break in 90 episodes since the television revival began. This week, we're exactly half-way through the series, and two-thirds of the way through the heats. No wonder John calls this "the most gruelling quiz on television."

Sherzod Mumonv will tackle the Philosophy of Extistentialism. The meaningless of existence is naught compared to the meaninglessness of Love Island, naturally. His final score is 7 (3).

Hazel Phillips has something a tad more ITV-friendly, The Little Women Series by Louisa May Alcott. It's another rather small subject, with a not-quite-perfect performance, but 14 (1) is a big score.

Pauline Beighton discusses the Life and Work of Gwen John. Eventually, we find that this was an artist of the early 20th century. Another decent but imperfect round, finishing on 12 (0).

Simon Curtis will talk about the music of The Jam. He doesn't sound confident, mumbling into his spectacles, but no-one will argue about 15 (1).

In the chat - yes, the chat is back, we're not going to get a tie - Mr Mumonv confirms that he comes from Uzbekistan, and that the most important thing is to exist. He benefits from starting a question after the buzzer, but it doesn't help - 12 (8) his final score.

Mrs Beighton confirms that Gwen's younger brother, Augustus, was also a great artist. Her general knowledge round never really catches light, closing on 19 (0).

Dr Phillips is a research scientist, specialising in the decomposition of cow dung. Er, lovely. Again, her general knowledge round doesn't do too well, and 19 (8) won't win.

Mr Curtis therefore requires five to win, which is eight fewer than he got when appearing on "some other show". He makes a public appeal for the Jam to reform, and correctly answers a question about the origin of the duffel coat - that question's been asked of Judith Keppel on some other show. Anyway, three correct answers, and then Mr Curtis's round comes to a grinding halt. One right answer will not be enough, but the second will. His final score - also helped by starting a question after the buzz - is 23 (4).


Is it really a month since the Championship of Champions ended? Doesn't time fly when you're having fun. And doesn't time move like lorries on the uphill stretch of the M25 on a rainy Friday evening in February when you're watching Love Island. You wouldn't know because you've never seen Love Island? An excellent idea.

Anyway, back to Countdown, where Tony Warren won the two games he required to become the first octochamp of the series. His eight wins had a total of 712 points, at +66 to Par. This figure is depressed by three poor performances recorded while Mr Warren was suffering from a chest infection.

The vacant chair was taken by Graham Dugdale, who looked set for a long run, but lost his third match 101-90 to Alan O'Donnell. Mr Dugdale made two wins, Mr O'Donnell had one win, Marion Lang and Andrew Balsdon had two wins apiece. Phil Watson won on the last day of June, and defended his title through the next week. His six wins totalled 574 points at +46 to Par.

June Bloxham won a squeaker, but fell the next day to Stuart Dowey. Mr Dowey took two wins before losing to Paul King - who, it should be pointed out, is not the former MTV presenter. Frank Jablonski unseated Mr King after one game, but lost after two wins. Ken Jenkins (that's Jenkins with a K, not a G) won three games this week, giving him the third seed. Jean Braithwaite won on Friday.

Friends of the show will wish to note that Des Chiffres Et Des Lettres Et Des Lynam will start at 3.45 from next Monday. That's fifteen minutes later than at present.

This Week And Next

Poker Face came to an end, with the contestants competing for One Million Pounds. Each contestant put their £50,000 daily prize up for grabs. All human life was in the hour - stupid jokes, a great show of intelligence, suspense, and people pacing about the set as if they owned it. Only one contestant - on a million-or-bust mission - failed to hit the bail-out button, and we'd be lying if we weren't wishing he would leave with something but not the top prize. As it was, the total prize dished out on the show was almost £1.25 million; not bad for 46 minutes' television. Most of that, a cool one million pounds, went to Sarah Lang, a housewife from south Wales. After her success on In It to Win It last year, Mrs Lang becomes the first person to win more than one million pounds, cash, on game shows. Unless you know better...

The winning script from Channel 4's series The Play's The Thing will close after only seven weeks. "On The Third Day" has played to barely half-full audiences during its time at the New Ambassador's Theatre. It will finish its West End run on 29 July, five weeks earlier than originally planned.

If Full Stops is ending, it's going out with a high - the episode on 6 July was the top programme on BBC4 all week, attracting 236,000 viewers. E4 was led by Wednesday's Big Mouth (885,000), and More4's Deal repeats tanked - the peak figure is just 240,000. An old edition of 50/50 on the Sunday afternoon took 152,000 on the CBBC channel. Challenge's top production was Friday night Family Fortunes, which netted the binary figure of 111,000.

On the terrestrial channels, Big Brother remains atop the pile for a fourth week, attracting 5.8 million. 4.3 million stuck around on BBC1 after the World Cup final to see Only Fools on Horses - it's enough to take silver for the week, and is 60% higher than ITV's viewing figure for the match. Indeed, Millionaire (3.9), A Question of Sport (3.8m), Ten Cats (3.4) and Wednesday's Deal (3m) also beat the France v Italy game. We won't give away the result, just in case anyone's not seen it yet. Mastermind topped BBC2's game show ratings with 1.4m, ahead of UC Reunited on 1.3m.

The ITV executives can console themselves with the fact that someone is watching Patrick Kielty on Love Island. His old format, Star Academy, premiered in the US last week, and was seen by a small audience. We're not saying that it's unpopular, but we've come across no-one discussing who performed what. Those who know their torrents from their torrential rain say that the programme is conspicuous by its absence. We don't even know who was voted off. Provisional ratings say that SA-US was shown on less than 1% of the nation's television sets. That's probably going to come out at an even smaller viewing figure than the 2,448,642 for the nine-and-a-half hours on ITV.

Commentators who saw the programme in its Canadian airing said they thought it was a comedy - microphones failing in mid-performance, a botch job on the sound mix, and the host in a stand-up row with one of the judges. All utterly normal for a Star Academy transmission, folks. Whether the Most Unpopular Show On US Network Television, Ever comes back for a second week remains to be seen.

Domestic highlights for next week include Raven on BBC1, the return of Come Dine with Me, and a new series of X Marks the Spot.

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